Following along with people like Dario Argento and George Romero, writer/director Ti West is another filmmaker who I claim to be one of my favorites, despite not having seen their entire catalog. With Argento and Romero, I feel I have seen enough of their films to adequately determine their style and quality, but I don’t know if I’ll ever sit and watch EVERY fucking movie they’ve been involved in, because some were pretty shitty. With Mr. West, on the other hand, this is the last feature of his that I needed to see to be able to say I’ve seen all the feature-length movies that he’s made. Okay okay, he’s been involved in some movies that are done, but I am not enough of a bigshot to have seen some of those movies that haven’t had a larger release yet. Considering I only sort of liked his second feature-length movie, Trigger Man, I was a little hesitant to watch The Roost, which is his very first feature-length movie. Luckily, all my worryings were for naught, because I ended up enjoying it. Hooray!
Remember when Tom Noonan claimed to have kidnapped Fox Mulder’s daughter? Good thing he was just acting.
We are greeted by “The Horror Host” (Tom Noonan) in a black & white segment as he addresses us about what kind of story we are about to see. He lets us know that the fate of the characters isn’t good, but doesn’t want to talk for too long as “The Master” might be back soon. This is when we cut to a group of college-aged kids who are driving to a wedding that is seemingly out in the middle of nowhere. Surprisingly, these kids get lost when their car hits a rock, so they set out on foot to find help. Unfortunately, there’s no help waiting for them when they finally find a house. We, as viewers, see that the house’s residents have been attacked by some bats and have been turned into some zombie-like creatures, and these creatures start picking off the college kids one-by-one, and even though you think the kids might get help and maybe one or two of them survive, NONE OF THEM DO. That’s when The Horror Host comes back and he tells us that The Master is coming, so we need to leave. While the camera starts running through the house, we lose the camera’s light and see the person holding the camera trying to light matches, which is when we see The Master pop out from the darkness and the credits start rolling.
What’s Kenneth from 30 Rock doing here?!
One reason I enjoy Ti West films is that he doesn’t rush the characters or the relationships between them for the sake of getting to a scare, and he’s able to stretch out that tension to make the scares more effective. He did that with The Roost by giving us a good amount of time to get familiar with the characters, but since we were warned by Tom Noonan in the opening that they wouldn’t survive, I didn’t really pay all that much attention to them. Another thing that West did really well in The House of the Devil was mimic a dated style of film-making in a way that showed admiration as opposed to sarcastically mocking it. With The Roost, not only did he mimic a “B Movie” style creature feature, but he also added in the segments featuring Tom Noonan to emulate a TV host back when they’d show those shitty old movies on TV. He’s certainly no Elvira, but the tone of the whole thing really nailed it. In fact, it was the ending segment where the camera operator is escaping the house that brought my enjoyment of the movie way up, seeing as there wasn’t anything particularly engaging about the college kids attacked by bats segment.
I’m glad we never really learned the connection of the bats and the creatures and shit like that, very similar to Deadites from Evil Dead. Unless, of course, they did explain it and I just completely fucking missed it.
Even though Ti West has demonstrated all of these strengths in his other films, one thing I noticed about this film that I hadn’t particularly noticed about some of his others were the ways he manipulated sound effects in the editing. I’ve always enjoyed the music and score of his films, thanks to frequent collaborators Jeff Grace and Graham Reznick, but I don’t think I noticed the sound effects and its use in editing all that frequently. For example, both the residents of the house (before being turned into creatures) and the group of college kids are listening to a radio play that I’m assuming was of the spooky variety. When we see the people who become the zombie creatures investigating their barn (which is where the bats who are attacking people have their roost, by the way), at the moment you expect them to scream, the film cut to the college kids listening to the radio play and hearing the scream through the radio. Another example involved substituting a scream for the revving of the college kids’ car engine after they have broken down. I might have confused those two examples and it might have been a car engine revving when the older people are about to get attacked in a barn, but FUCK THAT I ALREADY SENT THE DVD BACK TO NETFLIX. You do get the point though, right? This use of sound effects editing might have been to more accurately reflect the B Movie style West was aiming for, but because I am typically paying more attention to West’s visual style, it was nice to see he had some other tricks up his sleeves. If you’re a fan of West’s other films, you’ll definitely find some things to like, and if you like those classic B Movie creature features, than this is one you should definitely check out.
Wolfman Moon Scale